Will new COVID spike tamp down in-person voting, leading to a GOP disaster?

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

On Saturday, The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 1,742 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number reported in the state since April. National sources reported about 55,000 new cases — without Florida numbers — and nearly 1,000 deaths.

Since there appear to be no new restrictions to limit the spread of the virus on the horizon, we’re going to find out what would have happened had there been no lockdowns or shutdowns in the spring, it seems.

In fact, one could argue, since we’re headed into cold weather, what we’re about to see over the next few weeks could be worse that what would have happened in the spring, in terms of case numbers. We won’t need shutdowns, because people will be too afraid to go out — and the economy will tank, again.

Obviously, there are some mitigating factors: CV19 is less likely to kill now, thanks to the various modes of treatment out there. And yes, more — but still not enough — people are wearing masks.

Still, it appears that we’re about to see a viral wildfire burn through the county — again. It could be a fire that runs through the country until there is a widely available vaccine and new treatments, such as the monoclonal antibody therapy which appears to have helped President Donald Trump, start to be produced in volume.

March, at the earliest, the experts say — maybe April before we start to contain this viral fire. Few expect life as it was to return much before June, 2021.

None of this is good news.

But it is particularly bad news for Republicans.

It’s increasingly clear that Democrats are voting by mail in historic numbers, looking to avoid in person voting at all costs, while Republican leaders, including President Trump, have been falsely claiming that VBM is rife with fraud. It’s not. But whatever, GOP voters seem to be buying the argument and will opt for in-person voting.

So, consider this scenario: COVID continues to spread like wildfire, maybe we reach 100,000 new cases a day by Election Day, with nearly 2,000 deaths per day. Meanwhile, the polling continues to look terrible for Trump and his fellow Republicans.

At what point do rank and file GOP voters just decide to stay home and not vote on Election Day because they don’t think it is safe and they feel their vote won’t matter, anyway? And will some, finally, blame Trump for the current mess and stay home out of anger?

It is hard to model — like trying to figure out the impact of rain on Election Day. But it is shaping up to be a very real scenario sending chills down the spines of Republican candidates and officials everywhere, especially as their internal polling continues to crater.


The voters of Pennsylvania got three more victories this week and need the legislature to solve one last problem to avoid Election Day chaos.

First, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit by the Trump Campaign insisting it had a right to have “watchers” inside satellite voter services offices, where voters are registering, picking up ballots and returning them.

The second win was legislative Republicans surrendering on its attempt to create an “Election Integrity Commission” after the public overwhelmingly objected to what appeared to be an attempt to subvert the results of the November election. Predictably, Republicans blamed the media, instead of accepting it was a crappy idea.

Another federal judge threw out the Trump Campaign’s suit seeking to limit the number of ballot dropoff boxes, this week, making it easier for people to skip the mail and bring in their ballot.

The last piece?

The legislature needs to move forward on allowing local Voter Services offices to pre-canvass mail-in ballots. Right now, those ballots can only start to be counted at 7 a.m. on Election Day. With the massive volume of mail in ballots, it could take days to count all the votes.

Local election officials in both parties are begging the legislature to move on this — allowing a week of pre-canvassing would mean having all but final results on Election Night (obviously, in close races, the ballots that come in during the three days after the election, but postmarked by Election Day, will be counted, just as provisional ballots and such are counted after the fact and appear in the final, certified count).

Most other states allow for this common sense move, needed in a pandemic year with so many mail-in ballots.


When I saw the headlines this week from Michigan — about the plot to kidnap and execute Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — my first thought was that this could have happened here in Pennsylvania.

Like Michigan, Pennsylvania has “militia” groups — I use the quote marks because they are domestic terrorist organizations — many of which are White Nationalist. And as in Michigan, Republican legislators here stoked anger at the governor for implementing public safety measures to fight COVID-19 (the current spike in new cases show that behavior to have been not only immoral but flat out idiotic).

Essentially, the folks in Michigan were prepared to execute Whitmer for forcing people to wear masks and closing down gyms and bars to prevent the spread of COVID, encouraged by the GOP from the state legislature all the way to the White House.

The same playbook has been used here in Pennsylvania — with even one county attempting a legislature-spurred rebellion against Gov. Tom Wolf. One has to assume some of the same sorts of radicalized groups were activated in Pennsylvania and potentially plotting violence against Wolf, Health Secretary Rachel Levine and others in the administration.

This is the danger of irresponsible rhetoric by these elected officials and it should not be forgotten.


You may have seen the flurry of political mailers hitting your mailbox in recent weeks. Okay, I’m sure you did — they are pretty hard to miss.

They are also a gigantic boondoggle and a scam for connected mailer production houses.

As a candidate, you face terrible pressure to use the “official” mail/production house of whichever party, usually in Harrisburg. They often produce nasty, but crappy mail pieces designed by the production house and the leadership of the party legislative group, like the House Democratic Campaign Committee or the House Republican Campaign Committee.

By the way, the same holds true for use of the “official” polling companies — which often produce overpriced, sloppy and sometimes useless polls.

But back to the mailers: you get locked into stupid and bad mailings, draining your campaign coffers and these days doing little to help you get elected. Digital, phone banking, voter tracking and cable TV tend to be more effective uses for campaign dollars. Those, though, don’t stuff the pockets of Harrisburg cronies.

And this is equally true in both parties — it’s a scam and something to consider when you write that check to your local legislative candidate.

Let me give you an example: I got a mailer from Republican Craig Williams, the Republican candidate for State Representative in the 160th District.

Knowing how this crap works, I’m not going to put the blame on Williams — this is one of those lousy state party mailers.

I had two issues: the first is that the mailer claims Williams’ opponent Anton Andrew is a “Harrisburg Insider.“ I’m not sure Andrew ever worked there — based on his professional history, at best it is a stretch, at worst it is an outright fabrication.

My second is more subtle. The mailer features a nice picture of Andrew — not the usual image of the opposing candidate looking distressed when used on a negative mailer. It’s problematic because you never use your opponent’s image in a positive way, normally.

So was it used in a positive way?

I’m sure this wasn’t Williams’ intent, but I can’t help but feel this was a “Hey, he’s a black guy!” move to signal those in the district who are, well, racists, who not to vote for. Maybe I’m too cynical and this was all innocent, but you have to wonder.

I’d love to see Attorney Josh Shapiro look into these “arrangements” in both parties — they stink to high heaven, profit a few insiders in each party and do not serve candidates or voters.


Stay safe. Be smart. Wear a mask. Vote.

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